Why is the Pac-12 ending? Explaining the 2024 plans to dissolve conference and what happens next year

Why is the Pac-12 ending? Explaining the 2024 plans to dissolve conference and what happens next year

Friday night’s Pac-12 championship game marks the end of an era. While one of Washington and Oregon will be all but assured of a College Football Playoff berth when the final seconds tick away, that moment will also represent the unofficial end of one of the sport’s longtime power conferences.

Ten of the 12 member schools are set to join a different conference in 2024, effectively dissolving a conference that has existed since 1915.

While the Pac-12 is still expected to operate in 2024, the conference will be a shell of its former self, and its future is highly uncertain. Oregon, Washington, USC, UCLA and more, meanwhile, will play on elsewhere.

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Here’s what you need to know about why the Pac-12 is dissolving and what comes next for the conference and its members.

Why is the Pac-12 ending? 

Several factors contributed to the demise of the Pac-12, but television deals are at the heart of the issue. While other power conferences have inked massive TV deals in recent years, including major agreements for both the Big Ten and Big 12 in 2022, the Pac-12’s negotiations floundered.

The conference negotiated with a handful of networks and services, including nontraditional outlets such as Apple TV, but no deal was ever struck despite intense pressure to placate the remaining schools. The Pac-12 was still trying to land a deal when Oregon and Washington left in August, effectively delivering a death blow to the conference.

Why was no network willing to meet the Pac-12’s demands? It’s impossible to exactly dictate all of the factors, but the conference’s brand was suffering in the years leading up to 2023. On the football field, the Pac-12 struggled to compete with the nation’s top conferences and was shut out of the College Football Playoff each season from 2017-22.

Many of the conference’s games are broadcast on the Pac-12 Network, which a handful of providers don’t offer, so it became more challenging to market the top teams and players. Meanwhile, the leadership of ex-commissioner Larry Scott and current commissioner George Kliavkoff didn’t offer much hope for a revival.

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Ironically, the Pac-12 has experienced a bit of a football revival in 2023. Washington and Oregon went a combined 23-1 in the regular season, with the only loss coming as a result of a game between the two schools, and the conference also boasted national names in USC QB Caleb Williams and Colorado coach Deion Sanders. Even Arizona and Oregon State enjoyed successful seasons, with the Wildcats surging to nine wins after spending several years as an afterthought.

The Pac-12 couldn’t embrace the fun, however, without knowing it will all come to an end after this season.

What is happening to Pac-12 next year?

At this time, the Pac-12 will still exist in 2024. Whether it will retain the same name is unknown, but the conference is planning to operate with only two schools: Oregon State and Washington State.

The two-team Pac-12 won’t be treated like the other four traditional power conferences, however. The expanded College Football Playoff is now set to include the five highest-ranked conference champions, rather than the previously agreed upon six, and the two remaining schools will be forced to play almost all of their games against out-of-conference opponents. 

While the Beavers and Cougars both had their share of positive moments in 2023, sweeping changes are expected for both programs given the uncertainty going forward. Oregon State already lost coach Jonathan Smith to Michigan State and is set to lose swaths of its roster to the transfer portal, including quarterback DJ Uiagalelei. The program already promoted defensive coordinator Trent Bray to replace Smith in search of continuity.

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Questions surround the future of Washington State QB Cameron Ward, though coach Jake Dickert remains in charge of the program after a 5-7 season.

The Pac-12 can only exist in its two-team form for a maximum of two years. Here are the details on the conference’s immediate future and why this setup isn’t allowed long-term.

Pac-12 teams in 2024

Only Oregon State and Washington State will be part of the Pac-12 in 2024, forming a “Pac-2.” The conference’s other 10 schools are all headed elsewhere.

While NCAA rules require conferences to have at least eight members, rules also grant conferences a two-year grace period to if they fall below that mark. The Pac-12 could exist with only two members through 2025, though the future of the conference and its two remaining schools is very much uncertain. 

So, who will Oregon State and Washington State play next season? They will play each other once, but many of their remaining games could be filled in as part of a schedule merger between the Pac-12 and the Mountain West Conference, according to Yahoo Sports.

While some have wondered whether Oregon State and Washington State might ultimately merge with the Mountain West, which is the most prominent remaining west coast conference, any agreement for 2024 is expected to simply be a schedule deal rather than a formal merger. At this point, the Beavers and Cougars remain without a long-term home.

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Where will Pac-12 teams play next year?

While Oregon State and Washington State remain members of the Pac-12, the conference’s other 10 schools are moving on. Here are the details on where all 12 teams will be playing next season: 

  • Oregon: Big Ten
  • UCLA: Big Ten
  • USC: Big Ten
  • Washington: Big Ten
  • Arizona: Big 12
  • Arizona State: Big 12
  • Colorado: Big 12
  • Utah: Big 12
  • California: ACC
  • Stanford: ACC
  • Oregon State: Pac-12
  • Washington State: Pac-12

USC and UCLA were the first to jump ship, as they announced their intention to join the Big Ten in June 2022.

The Pac-12 still held out hope of keeping the band together without two of its most prominent members, but the summer of 2023 brought seismic change. Colorado opened the floodgates with an agreement to join the Big 12, but the Big Ten’s agreement to add Oregon and Washington in August officially delivered a knockout punch to the Pac-12.

With the conference’s future in doubt, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah soon bolted and joined the Big 12. California and Stanford, along with SMU, joined the ACC in September, leaving only Oregon State and Washington State without a long-term home.

As a result of the changes, the ACC will have 17 members in football next season, while the Big Ten will have 18, the Big 12 will have 16 and the SEC will have 16. The Pac-12 will have two, and the future beyond these next two years is in serious jeopardy. 

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